Vidcon: Introducing VR to the Next Generation of Creators
Over 25,000 attendees flocked to Anaheim last week for VidCon, the three-day annual gathering of video creators and their screaming fans. Now going on its 7th year, VidCon is quickly replacing SXSW as the place to be for brands launching a social platform or digital video product, especially if you’re targeting a younger generation.Just to name a few, household brands like Instagram, YouTube and Netflix were in attendance. Platforms you may have never heard of like YouNow and Musical.ly were also there vying for the attention of young creators. If you haven’t heard of Musical.ly — you will soon. They’ve been on a tear lately, amassing a global audience approaching 100 million mostly teenage users in less than one year. No big deal.So while all these brands were competing to stay top of mind among teenagers who, let’s be real, often seemed more concerned about taking selfies with famous YouTube creators, there was one secret winner in our eyes at VidCon – virtual reality.Although not immediately apparent among all the attention grabbing booths with live interviews and swag giveaways, there were multiple brand activations introducing VR to an entirely new generation of creators.As you would expect, Samsung and their mobile Gear VR headset was the most prominent on the conference floor, with long lines of teenagers waiting to experience VR for the first time. And since this was VidCon, 360-degree video cameras were prevalent, with Ricoh and Samsung both showing off the future of immersive video.With a full-day scouting VR experiences, attending relevant industry panels and very “relevant” parties, here’s what our VidCon looked like.Yep, Nickelodeon’s Legends of the Hidden Temple is coming back and they took us through some crazy challenges.M&M’s let you check out the rooms of each color M&M in this Gear VR tour.Samsung was at it again, bringing their Gear VR roller coaster ride, surf board experience, skate experience and a Gear 360 mirror photo-booth.Then there were the industry panels, starting off with Barry Pousman from Variable Labs discussing how to create compelling narrative for VR. Pousman was a producer of “Clouds Over Sidra,” the VR documentary that brought viewers inside a Syrian Refugee Camp. He is now working to create VR video content for X-Prize and is continuing his work with the UN.Brandon Laatsch (co-creator of StressLevelZero, Node, and the freddiew channel) hosted an hour long Q&A session, answering questions from attendees about VR content creation, how hardware and content is evolving, and the struggles creators will face in monetizing 360-degree video.Then there were the parties, spending most of the time at Samsung’s Gear 360 premiere event offsite at the Anabella Hotel. Casey Neistat took the stage to spotlight 10 creators from YouTube who shot their own short films using the 360-degree camera.After an introduction to the creators, you could then screen the creator’s content on Gear VR headsets that were being passed around to attendees at the private event.The Gear 360 was the main focus of the event, with this being the first time creators in the United States could get their hands on the camera and purchase it. The Gear 360 was priced at $349.99 and was available for purchase on a limited basis only during VidCon.In a way, kicking off the U.S launch of the Gear 360 at VidCon and getting the camera into the hands of some of the most influential content creators in the world, is a smart strategic play on Samsung’s part and will probably make the Gear 360 one of the more popular cameras when it becomes more widely available on the market. By seeding production of VR content with creators first, consumers will get a taste of what can actually be shot with the Gear 360 and also at the same time ensure high fidelity footage out of the gate.Samsung is also eager to motivate VR creators and foster new projects, announcing that in July the company will launch the Samsung Creators program. The program will include a series of seminars and classes, putting VR capabilities in the hands of filmmakers and influencers to further accelerating this new immersive medium. They will also host a competition, which will pick one winner from 10 different categories to receive a cash prize of $10,000, a ticket to the Creators Awards ceremony in New York including two round-trip flights, and a masterclass with VR filmmaking pros.In comparison to last year’s VidCon, VR was widely present. Whether or not young creators who tried VR for the first time and thought it was “cool” will pursue content creation of their own – we’ll just have to wait and see. But as I walked around with a Gear 360 on a monopod and teenagers stopped to ask if that was “Casey Neistat’s camera,” I couldn’t help but smile. This all feels different and I think its what we call progress.